When discussion of college football’s toughest conferences comes up, the ACC is rarely mentioned. Since many of the ACC schools are located in the same vicinity as their SEC brethren, they are often forgotten about or dismissed as quality football schools. The ACC is regularly dismissed by the commentariat simply because it’s not the SEC. Optimist Prime has arrived to right this wrong, and open your eyes to the competitiveness of the 2010 version of the ACC.
In my experience, the typical fan or commentator reaction to a conference without one or two overwhelming favorites is to dismiss said conference as mediocre. Sometimes they are exactly right, but this year I don’t believe they are.
The ACC is going to have a competitive conference title race in both divisions, and the team’s duking it out will all be quality teams. I understand that many of you will dismiss my pre-season prognostication because it’s August. However – August IS the pre-season. I am not psychic, just as none of the other pre-season commentators are psychic. The only information that we have to work with is pre-season rankings and statistics from last year. By the time November rolls around I may deny that I ever wrote this post. For now, read on as I lay out the case for the ACC being 2010’s toughest, most competitive conference.
First of all, let’s examine things from a team perspective. Five of the ACC’s twelve teams are ranked in the pre-season AP and USA Today polls. That portends tough competition throughout the conference. Beyond that, even the ACC’s traditional football doormat, Duke, is expected to field a competitive squad. Look up and down the ACC schedule, there is not one team who sticks out as a pushover. Though there are no ACC teams that scream “national championship contender” in the pre-season, there are several teams that look like they will contend for the all-important nine or ten win threshold, signaling competitive depth throughout the conference.
Drilling down from the team angle, let’s examine the depth of returning skill players through the ACC. For the first time in ACC history, the conference returns five 1,000 yard rushers. Beyond the five returning thousand yard rushers, quality returns with backs like Georgia Tech’s Anthony Allen, who averaged over ten yards a touch last season. Virginia Tech returns Darren Evans off an injury. He is expected to resume his freshman All-America form and contribute to a loaded Hokie backfield. Heading over to Maryland, Da’Rel Scott is one of the best backs in the ACC and is looking to finish his career strong and return to 1,000 yard form after struggling with minor injuries last season.
Beyond running backs, most would argue that a quarterback is the most important player in an offense. If that axiom holds true, that’s a good thing for the ACC, as the conference returns eight of its twelve starting quarterbacks from a year ago. That type of returning offensive skill throughout the league is a great predictor of offensive success throughout the season.
Combining the returning offensive skill with the fact that the ACC returns five of the top thirty returning defenses in the country, the recipe for a tough, competitive 2010 is complete. On August 25 there is not a more competitive conference in the country.
But remember, if I’m wrong in November, I will deny ever writing this post. Enjoy the season!